Thursday, February 2, 2012

Comfortable in my Comfort Zone

Anyone remember back in the fall when I was learning how to swim?

Blog after blog about trying to figure out breathing, trying to figure out technique, trying to find the endurance to swim back and forth across the pool FOUR times before taking a break.  I loved it.  It was hard - it was humbling - at times it was downright embarassing - but I loved it.

I like forcing myself to do something outside of my comfort zone.  I like discovering whether or not I can do it and I love surprising myself when I go further than I thought I'd be able to.

When I started swimming I wasn't sure what my goal was because swimming is different than running.  When someone decides to learn how to run, it's not too big of a stretch to set a goal to run 5k.  Once they've done that - running 10k is a pretty natural next step. And so on...

With swimming, I didn't know what kind of goal to set (other than not drowning - or worse, almost drowning and having to suffer the embarrassment of being rescued from a public pool).  Do I set a time goal - swim for 30 minutes?  Do I set a distance goal - swim 40 lengths?

Not knowing what else to do, I just kept moving forward - forcing myself to swim more lengths between rests, forcing myself to swim more lengths period.  I increased from 20 to 80 lengths by adding 10 per week.  It kept me in a constant state of discomfort because I no sooner got (sorta) used to a distance when I pushed it a little further.

So, here's my dilemma.  I am now swimming just about as fast as I'm going to swim.  Yes, yes I'm sure I can improve my technique and shave seconds off my time but it's no longer about minutes.  I don't rest between lengths at all any more. I just hop in the pool, swim back and forth 80 times and hop into the shower.  I can't add any more lengths to my routine because I have to get to work and I'm cutting it pretty tight as it is.  So I've maxed out how many lengths (give or take one or two) that I can squeeze into the 50 minutes I have in the pool.

Diabetes-wise, swimming has proven to be a godsend.  My rough calculation is that I've gone swimming between 50 and 60 times.  I have never had a low blood sugar.  Not one.  Not even close.  Even when my blood sugar is 4.0 before I hop in the pool.  I eat two dates and would bet $100 that I'll be 7.0 when I'm done.  I always am.  It's like a gift from the diabetes gods and it more than makes up for all the crazy blood sugar battles I have to fight every time I go for a run.  The biggest gift that swimming has given me is not increased fitness.  Not weight loss.  Not helping to heal my stress fracture.  When I swim, I don't think about diabetes.  I don't have to.  I think about diabetes when I'm sitting in a staff meeting, when I'm driving my car, when I wake up at 2am to pee.  It's always there.  Except when I swim.

When I swim




I feel normal for the first time in over 9 years.  Three times a week, before the sun rises, while the rest of the world is asleep, I climb out of bed at 5:30am because I get to do something that makes me feel normal.

For the past 6 weeks I've been swimming 80 lengths three times a week.  That distance has gone from hard to comfortable.  But I know that I am no longer pushing my body the way I was in the fall.  I love swimming but it's gone from a challenge to an easy, relaxing workout.

Problem is that I am in my comfort zone and no longer want to get out of it.

I could mix things up by learning another stroke (right now I only do freestyle).  I could do drills.

Both very good options.

But, after all those weeks of struggling I'm pretty happy to just swim for a bit.  I don't wanna get out of my comfort zone just yet.

I will soon though - I can feel the urge to be uncomfortable building up again.

Any tips, swimming friends, on what I should try next?


  1. This post makes me REALLY want to start swimming. It's very inspirational!

  2. First off, I agree with Scully: this is a great post. I also love the fact that my diabetes seems to disappear from my mind when I'm swimming. It's very liberating.

    So what should you do next? I'm not saying you need to focus on getting faster, but you could throw in a structured workout once a week or so. You know, something like this: swim 200m at a faster pace, rest 20-30 seconds, swim another 200m, rest, swim 400m a little slower but still fast, etc. If you missing "pushing yourself," it might just be the thing. There are tonnes of workouts out there, and they help break up the monotony if you ever start to feel bored.

    I also have contemplated learning a new stroke, but I just can't bring myself to do it either.

    Of course, we all know what you should do. Triathlon!